It was a fantastic stage with breathtaking views at the top of the brutal climbs, but I was tired and had Merce Petit from Spain calmly tapping out a great cadence right behind me for 3 hours of today’s stage.
She’s fast! I tell you this girl can climb too! She’s tough competition. We were within less than 2 minutes of each other for most of the day. I got a small gap of 2 minutes at aid station 2 and then found out she got lost and also broke her seat post on a technical descent near the end, so I opened more of a gap, but expect to be spending lots more time riding with her this week. She finished the stage about 30 minutes behind me, but I’m definitely not celebrating just yet. This race is really an adventure so that buffer is probably time I’ll use on a mechanical, wrong turn or some other mishap. The kilometers tick off slowly here due to the extreme climbing and really rustic trails. There are surprises waiting around every corner such as huge ruts, sand pits, broken bridges, sticks, logs and really sharp vines. It’s hard to relax and find flow with such unpredictability.
I definitely did not have the descending mojo today and I crashed a few times, each time progressively getting a little worse. My technical skills are definitely rusty from a winter of skiing and sitting on the trainer. It doesn’t look like much, but there’s a pretty deep cut on my forearm from a sharp stick that they were debating about stitching or not. I didn’t get stitches, but the muscle around the cut is now pretty inflamed and getting bigger and more painful by the hour. It’ll make grabbing the handle bar interesting, but it could have been much worse; most importantly, my bike survived my riding today!